Research Exercise

Popular media article
“Why Coffee Is Good For Many Hispanics’ Health”
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/04/coffee-hispanic-health_n_5093415.html
This article talks about the study conducted on the effects of coffee in relation to cirrhosis mortality. It focuses on this study in relation with another study, which showed that Hispanics were twice as much vulnerable to chronic liver disease compared to “non-Hispanic whites”. By putting these two studies together, the article is able to make the connection that Hispanics should be drinking two or more cups of coffee per day to reduce their risks of death from liver cirrhosis by 66%. The authors of this piece make it seem as though they have come up with a solution for Hispanics, specifically, regarding this issue.

Primary Literature article
“Coffee, alcohol and other beverages in relation to cirrhosis mortality: The Singapore Chinese Health Study”
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hep.27054/abstract
This study observes the correlation between coffee consumption as well as the consumption of other beverages, such as black tea, fruit ice, or soft drinks, and the risk of cirrhosis mortality. This research was carried out amongst a population of 63,275 middle-aged and older Chinese subjects. The follow-up check ups resulted in the findings that daily drinkers who drank two or more cups of coffee had a 66% decline in the risk for death from cirrhosis. Other beverages were not associated with the mortality risks of cirrhosis. In conclusion, the study showed that coffee had a positive impact on people with non-viral hepatitis risk of cirrhosis.

Do you think the popular piece accurately reflects the scientific finding?

The popular piece does provide some of the main factual information and findings provided by the study, but does not go further to explain it in the circumstance of the study. On the other hand, the study itself is informative, while clearly explaining its purpose, data, and conclusion. It is not trying to sell its study, which prevents it from making biased and distorted statements. The popular article, however, tries to use the information in the study selectively to formulate a solution to a significant issue, while targeting Hispanic people at risk for cirrhosis.

 How are these two different?
These two pieces are different in that the study focuses solely on its own findings and its data to reach a conclusion, while the popular article connects this study to another to prove its argument and reach its conclusion. Although the two studies were not similar enough to be used in the same context, the popular article made it look as though their solution was justified by simply placing the two studies in the same piece. The audience is going to believe it, because the article has all the information they want to hear. They do not realize the skewed difference between this article and the original study, which prevents them from understanding the information from the study in context.

Where is the aspects exaggerated or misrepresented?

The popular article starts out with, “Are you a Hispanic? Do you like coffee? Well good news, your fondness for that “cup of joe” can be showing you liver some love.” This is a hook that gets people reading such articles, as it addresses someone personally by asking a question. The article goes on to state facts and subsequent interpretations based on the two studies presented in this article. However, the article is is not particularly correct in connecting these two studies. The first study compares the risks for cirrhosis of Hispanics in comparison to non-Hispanic whites. The second study clearly states that, “Limited experimental and epidemiologic data suggest that coffee may reduce hepatic damage in chronic liver disease” The popular article has misinterpreted the context of the study, resulting in an article that promotes coffee amongst the Hispanic population. Coffee could be effective on the Hispanic population, but it is not possible to make such assumptions based on a study on a different population.

 How would you improve the popular media piece?
This popular piece could be improved by firstly changing the misleading title into something more study-centric. Sensationalism does not have to be risked, as appropriate and relevant comparisons can also lead to an engaging article, while simultaneously promoting the study in the right context. Context is extremely essential to evidence, as it is crucial to provide some background information so that the readers can get the complete picture. Many people read only one article on the topic, and that article should be able to give them all the necessary information in a simple but effective manner.

3 responses to “Research Exercise”

  1. Carlos Aizenman says:

    This is such a good example. Basically two completely unrelated studies are merged together and then, bizarrely, somehow they end up with “Hispanics should drink coffee to prevent cirrhosis”. Great job on this!

  2. Swathi Srinivasan says:

    This is great, I think were quite effective in proving that often times, the poplar media article is not always an accurate representation of studies done.

  3. Brooke Nawrocki says:

    Great job with finding that article, it definitely shows the bad outcome of poor media coverage! I agree with what you said about changing the title so it isn’t so misleading.

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